Bulls 89, Jazz 88
CHICAGO - Marco Belinelli knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner with 5.9 seconds left, lifting the Chicago Bulls to a tense 89-88 victory over Utah on Friday at the United Center.
Belinelli's basket answered a tie-breaking jumper by Jazz center Al Jefferson with 51.6 seconds remaining. The go-ahead play began with a wild miss by Belinelli, but after the ball bounced off about six players, Chicago's Jimmy Butler finally won the battle for the offensive rebound and found Belinelli open in the corner.
On Utah's final possession, Gordon Hayward shook loose from Belinelli, but missed a 17-foot jumper just before time expired.
Belinelli and Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 22 points each. Nate Robinson scored 14 points, while center Joakim Noah survived foul trouble to pull down 13 rebounds.
Jefferson, back in the lineup after a three-game absence with a left ankle sprain, led Utah with 23 points. Marvin Williams added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Heading into this contest, Utah had lost five of its previous six games and held a precarious one-and-a-half game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
After trailing by as many as nine points, Utah took a 77-76 lead with 8:16 remaining on a jumper by Enes Kanter. The Jazz didn't stop there, adding a pair of free throws and a post hook from Derrick Favors to boost the lead to five points.
Chicago responded with an 8-2 run. After the Bulls grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds, Belinelli drained an open 3-pointer to send his team ahead 84-83 with 5:04 left.
Jefferson knocked down a jumper to put the Jazz back on top, Luol Deng made two free throws, then Jefferson hit 1 of 2 at the line to tie the score at 86-86 with 2:59 left.
Both teams had several failed possessions before Jefferson put the Jazz ahead in the final minute.
Neither side kept control of this one for long, other than late in the second quarter when the Bulls pulled out to a nine-point advantage. Chicago got inside the paint for a few layups, then Boozer drained a jumper and Nazr Mohammed added a pair of free throws to complete a 10-4 run and the Bulls had a 55-46 lead at intermission.
Utah recovered quickly in the third quarter, with Jefferson scoring the team's first six points before a reverse lay-in by Marvin Williams brought the Jazz within 57-54.
NOTES: Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau didn't have much reaction to a report that injured Bulls star Derrick Rose has been medically cleared to return to game action, but doesn't feel ready. Rose had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last year on May 15. "It's nothing new," Thibodeau said. "He's doing everything there is to do in practice. He's been cleared from that standpoint." ... Point guard Mo Williams started his second game after missing 32 with a right thumb injury. ... The Bulls once again played without Kirk Hinrich (sore right foot), Taj Gibson (left knee sprain) and Richard Hamilton (sore back). Thibodeau said Hamilton might not join the team on next week's three-game California trip. ... When the Bulls won at Utah 93-89 on Feb. 8, it was the first win by an Eastern Conference team in Salt Lake City in more than a year.
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